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  1. #1

    Default Family road trip Seattle - Yellowstone - ? Back to Seattle. Too much to see!

    Hi All

    This is my first post on any forum so please be gentle.
    We are looking to spend 3 weeks (21 nights) from 9th August this year travelling from Seattle.
    We have had similar holidays twice in the past to other areas but are finding this one very difficult to plan.
    Last big trip was to San Francisco- Monterey- Yosemite- Death Valley- Las Vegas- Zion - Bryce- Arches- Grand Canyon and Tucson.
    This time we want to visit Seattle and Yellowstone. However there are so many other wonderful sounding places between the two that we are having a hard time working out a route. Our eldest is also studying history of American Mid West for GCSE and Battle of Little Bighorn is on the syllabus so we would like to try to fit in a visit. We could fly into Seattle and out of Denver but that would leave us with a huge one way drop off fee which we would like to avoid so we are thinking of a round trip.
    There will be four of us, myself, my husband and our two boys (14 and 11). We love fantastic scenery, wildlife watching, history and walking, boat trips etc. I am not overly fit so could not do very strenuous hikes. We also prefer to be able to prepare simple meals or be near simple restaurants (often chains) as our youngest has very severe food allergies.
    At present our list of places is huge. We would welcome some help in cutting this list down to be more manageable and any tips for routes etc.
    We are looking at:
    Seattle - San Juan Islands, Olympic NP, Mount Rainier NP
    North Cascades NP and Lake Chelan
    Mount St Helens
    Glacier NP
    Cape Perpetua
    Oregon Dunes
    Crater Lake NP
    Yellowstone (5-6 days if possible, 2 locations preferably)
    Grand Tetons NP (1-2days)
    Little Bighorn
    Cody for rodeo nite
    Other places that look amazing are: Hells Canyon, Coeur D'Alene, Three Capes Scenic Route, Sawtooth, Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman and Beartooth Highway.

    I appreciate that this is far too much and we could fill months with these places so any help / advice will be gratefully accepted.

    Thank you all so much!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Two into one ?

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    Like most trips, it's always tough trying to narrow things down and get the right balance between trying to make the most of your time and overstretching yourselves so that you are always rushing to the next place instead of enjoying where you are.

    What I would do is look at your priorities, such as 5-6 days in Yellowstone and as an example 2 in Glacier NP and so on and work on your time scale and at a pace you are comfortable with. I would (gu)estimate that your loop is close to a weeks driving for a family holiday, so you can see that with a week in Yellowstone and Tetons, a couple of days 'somewhere else' you already have 16 of your 21 days accounted for and that's without time in Seattle and you don't say if the 3 weeks has to include the international flights ?

    Only you know the pace that you are happy with, but with so many choices I think you have the makings of 2 seperate trips rolled into one. One trip that could start from Denver or Salt Lake City to visit Yellowstone, The Tetons, Glacier NP and Little Big Horn, with Custer State park, Mt Rushmore etc nearby and another trip from Seattle to include the Oregon coast, Crater Lake, Mt St Helens, Mt Ranier, Olympic National park etc. I know I often start out like this and end up cutting right back and splitting it the best way I can to make 2 different and viable loop trips, doing the most appealing first, that's not to say you can't do a mix of what you want in one trip, but it's certainly food for thought to avoid rushing through places you might want to visit.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Less is More

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    As you feared and as Dave pointed out, your schedule is going to fill up pretty fast with just the driving, Yellowstone, and a small handful of other stops. So the trick is going to be to carefully choose what those 'other stops' are and how they will fit into the overall theme of the trip. Let's start with the places that you should probably cut from this trip. These are mostly the ones that will simply add miles of driving while 'only' adding a scenic wonder. Scenic wonders are great but there are far too many in the Northwest to include them all.

    So, let's do the hard part first. Which are the stops that you've listed that I would jettison for now? Olympic Peninsula and National Park and North Cascades National Park (gorgeous, but in the wrong direction), Mounts Ranier and St. Helens (difficult and time consuming to get to), and Oregon Dunes and Crater Lake (too far south, you need to get inland sooner). Well, that's a bummer!

    What would I do instead? I'd take a ferry cross Puget Sound to start out on a unique note and head down the Washington coast to Astoria OR and Fort Clatsop, then drive up old US-30 through the Columbia River Gorge. Next I'd take I-84 to Southern Idaho and follow the Snake River Valley, checking out Bruneau Sand Dunes, and the Thousand Springs of the Lost River - all more or less right on my way. Switching over to US-20/US-26 would take me to Craters of the Moon, Idaho Falls and finally ID-31/ID-33/WY-22 into Jackson and the Grand Tetons.

    On the way back to Seattle, after Cody and the Little Bighorn, I'd head north to Glacier National Park, being sure to take Going to the Sun Road. Finally, I'd be sure to check out some of the many scenic byways in northern Idaho, Coeur d'Alene, and the Palouse of western Washington.

    So, not what you had in mind, but quite similar in feel, requiring fewer miles to drive and making the most of the ones you have to drive anyway.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 02-20-2014 at 07:46 PM.

  4. #4


    Hi Southwest Dave and AZBuck

    Thank you so much for your replies. They have given us much food for thought. As we haven't been to this area before it is great to get advice to help with narrowing our trip. I will be doing more planning today looking at your suggestions and then I am sure I will have more questions!

    One question now, we have reserved a standard 5 seat SUV. A Jeep Grand Cherokee our similar.will that be suitable for the roads we will be taking?

    Many thanks


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default More than you need.

    Yes the SUV will be suitable for the roads, although in all honesty a mid-size saloon [sedan] would have been perfectly suitable. You won't be able to go Off road without violating your rental contract even if you wanted to. [There is no need for your trip]

  6. #6



    We have been thinking long and hard today and think now that it may be a better use of time to swallow the one way drop off fee and do a one way trip. Flights from the UK for us are more sensible time wise if we fly in to Seattle and out of Denver. We would be landing at about 11.30am on Saturday 9th August and leaving Denver at 20.45 on Saturday 30th August.
    Hopefully this will enable us to have a slightly more relaxed pace and see more rather than rushing through.
    We are now thinking:
    Seattle with hopefully a little time on San Juan Island for whale watching (5 nights)
    Glacier National Park(3 nights)
    Yellowstone and Grand Tetons (8 nights)
    Maybe Cody / Little Bighorn but maybe could be done as day trip from Yellowstone

    Rest of nights could be spent travelling between these places.

    The route described by AZBuck looks fantastic. Could we fit any of this in do you think with the above tentative plan?

    We are basing the route in to Seattle and out of Denver as flights give us more ground time that way. Are there advantages to doing the trip the other way round?

    Finally for now - Due to my sons food allergies, we often end up at fast food restaurants as the ingredients are more easily known. On previous trips this hasn't been an issue except in the national parks where he has lived on chips. For this trip, will we still be able to find burger chains along the route? I know this seems very limited but having experienced a full anaphylactic reaction with him whilst in Monterey I am always very apprehensive whenever travelling (hence holidays in the UK and USA where I can speak the language and read ingredients)

    Many thanks

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    I feel for your son with food allergies, because I have some myself. When you get to a restaurant, let the wait staff know his bugaboos. In most states, if a customer states allergies to shellfish or nuts, the cooks know that they will have to cook separately. (I'm allergic to shellfish and we went to MAINE, where lobster, crab and clams were king. They had to cook my meat on a separate grill.)

    Burger chains are prevalent all over the US. I think there are a few towns and cities that don't have a McDonald's yet, but not very many. I would think that the rest of you might need a break, though. I travel with a listing of the nutritional guidelines for the main fast food and sit-down chains, and you could probably do that too.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Day trip ?

    Good to see your plan coming together !

    Maybe Cody / Little Bighorn but maybe could be done as day trip from Yellowstone
    That wouldn't work. They look reasonably close on the map but the distances in the US are huge. A round 'day' trip like this would be about 550 miles, almost the equivalent of driving from London to Newcastle AND BACK ! It's not to say you can't go, but include it as part of your onward journey to Denver. It would also provide the perfect opportunity to drive the famous Beartooth Highway out of Yellowstone on route to Little Big Horn. This would by-pass Cody but that alone could be done as part of a day trip if you wanted to go. It would also be worth considering a couple of nights in Rocky Mountain NP just outside of Denver at the end of your trip if you felt you could make time.

  9. #9


    Thank you. Spookily we were just looking at the Rocky Mountain NP as your post came up.

    We now have the following plan:
    Seattle - 5 nights (to try to include a couple of nights in Olympic National Park and if possible a trip to San Juan Island for whale watching)

    Chelan - 1 night

    Coeur D'Alene - 1 night

    Glacier NP - 3 nights

    Bozeman - 1 night (for museum of the Rockies)

    Yellowstone - 5 nights

    Grand Tetons - 2 nights

    Sheridan -1 night (for driving Beartooth Highway and visit to Little Bighorn)

    Casper - 1 night

    Rocky Mountains - 1 night

    Does this sound feasible? I am relatively comfortable with the route up until Glacier NP but less so after this. We don't mind a couple of long drives. We love American roads and the boys have their iPods!

    The boys want to go to Rodeo Nite in Cody or see a Rodeo somewhere at least. I would rather spend 2 nights in Rocky Mountains but not sure how to do that. Would rather see scenery / wildlife than cities.

    Any suggestions for amending trip between Glacier NP and flying out of Denver? There would be 11 nights and we fly from Denver in the evening.

    Many thanks for all your help. We can't wait to fly out!


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Beartooth Highway.

    Be aware that, as spectacular as it is, and I would never suggest you skip it, the 68 miles from Cooke City to Red Lodge is a three hour drive. Longer if you stop to admire the views along the way, as well as on the pass. Then there is the remotely sited Top of The World Store. Sheridan may be a little ambitious. It can take quite a time to get out of Yellowstone. All it needs is wildlife on the road, which gets right-of-way.


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